Mt. Laurel Schools make the grade in final year of NJASK assessments

As in previous years, the Mt. Laurel School District scored above the state average at all grades levels in the NJASK assessment.

While district officials are pleased with the overall results, the greater focus remains on individual student growth.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Sharon Vitella presented the school district’s NJASK scores from 2013–14 at last week’s board of education meeting. The scores had Mt. Laurel ranking well above the state average in language arts and math across all grade levels.

Focusing on individual students is something the district has looked at in greater detail the past few years. To see how each individual student has grown, the district has developed new growth profiles to measure kids against similar students from around the state.

“If a student got a 210 on the ASK last year in third grade, they’d be compared to other third graders in the state that scored a 210,” Vitella said.

The impetus behind the student growth profiles is to encourage individual student improvement from year to year, rather than focusing on the district’s collective scores.

The results from last year’s tests were encouraging. All the district’s elementary schools and Hartford School had at least 69 percent of the student population show a typical or high-level of improvement compared to the previous year. The only grades where students saw their scores dip slightly is in fifth and seventh grade, when the students are transitioning to a new school.

One of the biggest challenges the district has had over the past few years has been low test scores for special education students, which have been low compared to other subgroups in the district. Some grade levels had proficiency levels below 50 percent for special education.

To improve scores, the district is again focusing on the individual students. Vitella said data is collected on each special education student’s strengths and weaknesses. Teaching methods and programs are then adjusted to try to benefit each student. Vitella said the teachers are able to come up with new ideas to get in touch with their students.

“We are aggressively working to improve the achievement of our subgroup students,” she said.

One area the district was pleased with was language arts. The district implemented a new reading program last year, but despite the transition, scores remained fairly steady.

“We’re quite happy with the results, because when you introduce a new program, you can expect some adjustments,” Vitella said.

The district has also steadily increased the number of students who are proficient in language arts as they progress through their school career. At the eighth-grade level, 95 percent of Mt. Laurel students are proficient in language arts.

“When our students are leaving to go to their high school years, we’ll be leaving them well,” Vitella said.

Superintendent Antoinette Rath emphasized the importance of focusing on every student. She said looking at subgroups and student growth profiles has allowed the district to find ways to further improve.

“It’s all about ensuring our students receive a top-notch education,” Rath said.